The importance of sleep cannot be understated. The quantity of sleep matter, of course, but the quality does too. No matter how hectic life gets, it is the duty of a parent to ensure that their young child has a healthy sleep routine to fully harness the merits of sleep.
After all, children who sleep better perform better.
What are the benefits of sleeping better?
For a child to bring their A-game wherever they go, whether it is school, sports training or a casual outing, ample sleep is imperative. One of the pillars of good health, sleep affects both the mental and physical state of the child.
Sleep is vital for brain functions such as concentration, cognition and productivity. A child who sleeps well tend to have better memory performance and problem-solving skills than one who does not. As they are more alert and focused, their mental state is better adapted to handle various tasks. A child who is suffering from sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is likely to battle daytime sleepiness which adversely affects their daily performance.
Sleep also impacts a child’s body beyond their brain and mental functions. Good sleep is proven to promote growth and improve a child’s immune system while a lack of sleep has been linked to obesity and high blood pressure. In essence, sleep plays a part in keeping the doctor away.
How much sleep is enough?
There are numerous published studies regarding the duration of sleep needed for children. Below, you’ll find the recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation.
- 1 to 3 years old: 10 to 13 hours
- 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 12 hours
- 6 to 13 years old: 9 to 11 hours
- 14 to 18 years old: 8 to 10 hours
Of course, the aforementioned numbers are guidelines; while they are good to know, every child is different and yours might need more or less sleep than others. What’s clear is that children do need more sleep than adults due to the stage of their mental and physical growth.
How can I improve my child’s sleep?
For some parents, making sure that their child sleep well takes plenty of effort. However, there are many tried-and-tested techniques to attempt.
Firstly, you should create a solid pre-sleep routine for your child. As an example, it could involve brushing teeth, putting on the pyjamas, having a drink of water, and then tucking your child under the blanket with a teddy bear. Other things you could throw into the mix would be bedtime snacks or bedtime stories. The routine should entrenched within a regular schedule and it should not stretch beyond 30 minutes. At the end of it, be firm with your child that bedtime has arrived and your child should not be getting out of bed.
What many parents tend to neglect is the effect of screen time on a child’s sleep. This matter is important to be addressed as a lot of children these days have access to mobile phones, computers, or at least the television. According to researchers who published a paper in the Sleep Medicine Reviews, screen time negatively impacts sleep outcomes in 90% of the sleep studies they reviewed. This manifests in the delay in the timing of sleep or a shortened sleep duration. As such, it is good practice to limit screen exposure during and before bedtime hours.
Other ways to improve your child’s sleeping patterns would be to ensure that your child eats well such that he/she isn’t too full or hungry at bedtime, to reduce caffeine consumption in the late afternoon and evening, and to avoid daytime napping for children beyond the ages of three to five. This may seem obvious, but it’s also worth mentioning that the bedroom environment needs to be conducive for sleeping. Keep the room dark and quiet. If your child prefers some light, you could switch on a dim bedside lamp.
Another fantastic method is to incorporate exercise into your child’s daily routine. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day for those between five to 17 years old. This level of activity helps children fall asleep faster and sleep longer at night, on top of conferring tremendous benefits to the brain and body.
Popular sports among children in Singapore include swimming, badminton and basketball. On top of having casual sporty outings whenever possible, parents could also enrol their child for scheduled lessons with sports coaches on CoachRadar.co. Such lessons could potentially bring fantastic opportunities for your child in future!
What if I can’t get my child to sleep well?
If you notice that your child has interrupted sleep or isn’t sleeping enough despite your best efforts, talk to the pediatrician. There are many causes of insomnia and sleep problems. It’s best to let the healthcare professionals sieve out the issue and recommend a treatment option.
To help your child sleep better, you can:
- create a structured pre-sleep routine
- limit screen time exposure before bed time
- feed your child adequately so that he/she is not too full around bed time
- introduce one hour of sports to your child activities daily